Upon Further Review: USC-Upstate

The Hoosiers did start particularly well nor finish strong, but they still had more than enough to knock off USC-Upstate 69-61 Monday at Assembly Hall. Hoosier Nation looks back at the contest and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Christian Watford. The Hoosiers' 6'8" freshman might not be "scratching the surface" to how good he can be according to both him and his head coach, but he was still pretty good in his second official game as a Hoosier. He became the second player in school history to open his career with back-to-back doubles (Tom Pritchard being the other) with his 17-points, 10-rebound, 31-minute performance. Watford was very good at critical times, scoring four of IU's final six points in the first half to help his team open a seven-point lead. In the second half he had a couple of nice tip-ins during the early flurry that enabled IU to open a 20-point lead. Then, after USC-Upstate had whittled the lead to eight with two minutes left, Watford hit a tough 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to push the margin to 11 and remove any doubt about the game's outcome.

Biggest Surprise… The eight-point final margin. After all, this is a USC-Upstate team that has won only 16 games in its two years at the Division I-A level, and it was soundly whipped by Nebraska, 76-49, a couple of nights earlier. Admittedly Spartans' 7'3" center Nick Schneiders was presenting some problems to the Hoosiers' desire to drive the ball and attack the basket, but he was also on the bench for as many minutes (20) as he was on the floor due to foul trouble. Indiana didn't have a great deal of energy at the start of the game, and that allowed the visitors to hang around in the opening half. A halftime kickstart from the coaching staff got Indiana untracked for the first 10 minutes of the second half as IU extended the lead to 20, but the final the game's final minutes saw Indiana go just 3-of-13 from the floor while committing five turnovers. Chalk it up to a learning experience, but Indiana will need to be much better as the competition gets more difficult.

What I Found Most Impressive… With each passing game, it becomes more and more obvious that IU has a couple of athletic power forwards that are going to give teams fits for years to come. If Christian Watford wasn't busy showing the Spartans that he could do a little bit of everything, then his teammate, Derek Elston, was doing that instead. . Both rebounded the basketball well on both ends of the court, combing for seven offensive rebounds and 18 caroms overall. Both made 1-of-2 attempts from behind the 3-point arc, and each brought the ball up against pressure once when USC-Upstate started applying some fullcourt pressure. Each has plenty of areas to improve upon over the course of time, but it's becoming very clear that both have very bright futures in IU uniforms.

What I Found Most Concerning… The Hoosiers' 16-of-30 effort from the free-throw line. Keep in mind, that's with Tom Pritchard being a perfect 2-of-2 from the free-throw line. The 30 total free-throw attempts is a solid effort in a game where the visitors weren't fouling down the stretch to try to prolong the contest. But IU's starting backcourt of Verdell Jones, Maurice Creek and Jeremiah Rivers combined to make just 5-of-13 from the line, and Devan Dumes came off the bench and missed all three of his attempts. This is probably an aberration, but Indiana can't afford to struggle that badly at the free-throw line as the competition starts getting more difficult beginning on Thursday against Ole Miss.

Turning Point: After appearing sluggish for most of the first half, Indiana came out at the start of the second half and turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor to open a double-digit lead. Verdell Jones had back-to-back layups, including a fast break bucket following a Jeremiah Rivers steal. Moments later, Christian Watford threw down a fastbreak dunk after a long rebound on a missed Spartan 3-point attempt to up the lead to 40-27. Indiana didn't play a complete 40 minutes by any stretch of the imagination, but the opening five minutes of the second half was much more in line with the style of play Crean wants to see from his team. As a result, they turned a 32-25 halftime lead into the 13-point cushion and the lead was never again in serious jeopardy.

Quotable: "There were times tonight that I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we were really trying to thorw that dagger, especially defensively. But young guys, they don't understand that the other team is not going away." – Tom Crean

"It's very easy for people to start to feel like I don't want to say invincible, but we are moving in that direction. We aren't. We are freshmen and sophomores with the exception of a junior and two seniors." – Tom Crean

"We learned that we have to work harder. We have to bring our all every time. Just because we're up 20, we can't just think we won the game. We have to play defense and see if we can get it to 25, 30. We have to keep pushing and keep going." – Derek Elston

"You have to learn what the mistakes are that you made during the game. We made a lot of mistakes tonight. I don't think our enthusiasm was there tonight like it should be." – Maurice Creek

"We're coaching effort so much right now in practice that it's carrying over to the games. The things on the board at the end are two things you live by, two things that I'm sure Indiana has lived by for many years, and I know I have. Excuses are a sign of weakness, and winners don't rationalize. You don't rationalize well I'm tired, and these practices are hard. Of course they are. That's why we're here. That's what it takes to be successful. We have to learn to play through all of those types of things." – Tom Crean

"I thought the Indiana size in the backcourt may have been the most significant factor in the game. I thought their bigger guards really hurt us with getting to the rim and playing over the top of some of our smaller kids." – USC Upstate Coach Eddie Payne

"We have to have that consistency come in there, and that's where the leadership really comes, when someone can do it time after time when it gets hard. We're not getting that in practice enough yet. I think it's going to take a couple of guys really buying into stepping and saying, I really have to do this. It might also take a couple of guys sitting there and watching for a while before they figure out, hey, he's really serious about this this year." – Tom Crean


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